Protesters question why bars can’t reopen when restaurants can


Bartenders sent a message to government officials today, to reopen bars so they can get back to their livelihood.

Those in the industry say they’re being discriminated against, because they should be allowed to open at the same time as the restaurants, which is next week.

Protesters say bars can be just as safe as the restaurants. They’re willing to follow whatever guidelines are necessary to get customers back.

After shutting down more than two months ago, bar owners say they can’t hold out much longer to keep the business alive.

“It’s horrible! My girls are destitute, they’re crying, they’re upset. They got on unemployment cause I was gonna pay them but they got $600 extra,” said Shawne Garliepp, owner of Creekside Lounge.

“Government has a responsibility here. I have 80 employees out of work. I have multiple suppliers. I have advertisers knocking on my doors, saying where’s my money? I have no money, I can’t give you any money,” said Bill Comerford, owner of O’Toole’s Irish Pub and three other bars.

They say there’s no reason to keep bars closed when restaurants can reopen their dining rooms on June 5.

“This is truly discrimination. They have decided that we are truly inappropriate, that we cannot behave. Do you see people misbehaving out here today?” said Comerford.

But national public health guidelines consider bars higher risk than restaurants because of the higher possibility of prolonged contact. A city spokesman says Mayor Kirk Caldwell is working with the governor and the state Department of Health to find a path forward for local bar owners. But there’s no definitive timeline on when the bars will open.

Bar owners and workers, including those who entertain at those venues, are running out of patience.

“We just want to get back in there and be able to entertain people. We’re willing to follow whatever the guidelines that bars need to have to put on shows. If we need to distance people, separate tables, separate chairs, people want to come back and laugh,” said comedian Jose Dynamite.

Protesters say with so few cases of COVID-19 for several weeks now, the risk is low for another outbreak if people start going to bars. And the public can use the distraction from the pandemic.

“They want to be able to go back and feel somewhat normal, and be able to go to bars, have a few drinks with some friends they haven’t seen, and go visit their regular hangouts,” said Dynamite.

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